Category Archives: MALAYSIA, july 2012

BORNEO

The flight with giant Emirates A380 was pleasant enough and we’ve landed in Kuala Lumpur Int. on time. But the problems emerged as we were waiting for our luggage for the next 45 min. So while running through the airport and driving with taxi to other KL airport in Subang from where low cost carriers are flying, of course our Air Asia flight to Kuching already left. Since there was no space on the remaining flights that day we were forced to spend the night and took first flight in the morning.

This was our second visit to Borneo and this time we decided on Sabah area of the Malaysian part of this gorgeous island (you can read about previous adventure in our pre-baby era).

It took a good 45 min ride to reach our hotel at Damai Beach (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g298309-d299160-r136357398-Damai_Beach_Resort-Kuching_Sarawak.html). One thing you learn from the get go is that you are really in a place where you need taxi to almost everywhere you want to go. Except if you want to stay on hotel grounds but beware that the beach is not your ideal SEA beach with white sand and turquoise water. But if you did your homework you knew that before you came to this great island.

Baruk suite
Baruk suite
Finally some rest
Finally some rest
The view over Damai beach
The view over Damai beach

Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia covering an area of nearly 125, 000 square kilometres in the Borneo land mass. With such a large land area, Sarawak is home to an incredible range of tropical bio-diversity. With a population of around 2 million, Sarawak’s rich ethnic diversity offers a unique local experience at the very moment you step of the plane. All that stands between you and Sarawak is your desire for an adventure and experience that is waiting to happen.

From rainforest canopies to jungle wildlife, discover the diverse ecosystem of Malaysia’s largest state. A city of modernity yet cloaked with its rich historical charms, Sarawak is a place where commonality and peacefulness is a way of life. A paradise of adventure for the adventure buffs, from the land to the sea, from mild to vigorous, whatever the challenge; if you’re ready for it, you can be sure Sarawak will give you an experience like no other.

KUCHING:

Kuching is Sarawak’s capitol and also its largest town. Like much of Malaysia, it’s a cultural melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous people. In Kuching life is a little quieter, and calmer; a bit like the slowly-moving river that flows through its heart.

Fun things to do in Kuching:

1. Relax by the riverside

The south bank of the Sarawak River has been revamped in recent years to create a peaceful promenade. Shady pedestrian pathways, overhung by trees, and decorated with flowerbeds, become fairyland at night, the colourful lights reflected in the river below.

The Astana, residence of the Governor of Sarawak
The Astana, residence of the Governor of Sarawak
State legislative complex of Sarawak
State legislative complex of Sarawak
No lunch today
No lunch today
Kuching Waterfront
Kuching Waterfront

2. Check out Kuching’s Cat Statues

It’s not a coincidence that in Malay ‘kucing’ means ‘cat’, but, hey, what better reason could there be to become the cat city of Malaysia? There are three main cat statues around town, like this one.

Cats are everywhere in Kuching
Cats are everywhere in Kuching
Gimme 5
Gimme 5

4. Take a river cruise

Whether you get on board the tiny boat that ferry people to and from across the river, take a fast boat out to the mangroves downriver, or do one of the many touristy sunset cruises on offer, it’s worthwhile to get out on the water.

 KAYAKING

Taking this excursion really treats you with fun filled kayaking adventure in some of the most beautiful natural settings in Kuching. It was about 10 kayaks in our group so we never felt crowded or unsafe in account of being neglected because of too many people. There is no age limit to this adventure since Svit was by far the youngest one and the oldest couple was well in their 60s.

Ready to go
Ready to go

You can paddle leisurely through the river from the upper reaches of Sarawak River.  The rapids were gentle and easy to go through but still great fun for us and the kid.

I wanna paddle
I wanna paddle

 

You must savour the sights of unique limestone formations and towering riverine trees while enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the rainforest.

Svit just being a kid
Svit just being a kid
Posing
Posing

After two great hours we’ve made a stop in native Bidayuh village, where we found some cool stuff about local herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits.

Lunch time
Lunch time

THE SARAWAK CULTURAL VILLAGE or chance to Hang out with Head-hunters

The Sarawak Cultural Village is nestled between Damai Beach Resort and Mt. Santubong. It’s created for tourists, but it was worthwhile and fun nevertheless. We went there on rainy day when beach wasn’t an option. It is just 10 min walk from the resort so no transportation needed here.  We learned quite a bit about Borneo’s native tribes by walking around a mix of traditional longhouses and huts and observing traditional chores, foods, handicrafts and rituals. Svit enjoyed hands-on activities, walking on bamboo bridge and looking at local kids playing around. Most of the staff speaks English. The restaurant serves snacks and lunch. The boardwalk around the village is stroller friendly, but some of the houses are on stilts and have stairs.

The Bidayuh Longhouse
The Bidayuh Longhouse
Walking the traditional Bamboo Bridge
Walking the traditional Bamboo Bridge
Trying out the unique staircases carved from a tree trunk
Trying out the unique staircases carved from a tree trunk
Painting
Painting
History lessons at Sarawak Cultural Village
History lessons at Sarawak Cultural Village
Headhunter
Headhunter

After a week we were ready to leave this great island with the memories that will last with us for ever.

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

We still weren’t sure how we will get to our next destination which was lovely Perenthian Islands. The longest and cheapest way would be to go back to the mainland, drive about two hours north to Kuala Besut and again take a boat for another 2 hours. Since this would be very tiring for our 3yo we were considering to rent a speed boat from Redang to Perenthians which would cost us around 700RM (160€) which is really expensive. Thankfully one of the staff at our resort overheard us and told us that there is also third way we can take.  This turned out to be the cheapest and fastest way at the end. It was a taxi boat that goes from Redang via Lang Tengah Island and stops on Perhentian before heading back. We shared the boat with dozen Chinese who went on Lang Tengah and from then on we were alone for the ride that lasted less than 2 hours in total.

Perhentian Islands are again one of the destinations that we already have visited in the past. At that occasion we were really impressed with everything about this beautiful island, including our hotel.

Tuna Bay Island resort
Tuna Bay Island resort

If we would for some miracle go back we would stay somewhere close to Long beach on the east of the island. Place like Coral View Island Resort looked great.  As passed by every day on the way to the beach, the chalets looks quite cosy and the prices for food and drinks are not as high as at Tuna Bay. Since this is Muslim resort you won’t get any alcohol here so don’t bother ordering it. The closest place where you can get your Tiger near this part of the island is Mama’s place, around the corner.  But again the biggest draw is proximity to the Long beach.

Banana split at Mamma's place
Banana split at Mamma’s place
Evening visitor at Tuna Bay
Evening visitor at Tuna Bay

The beach is great for the kids, the waters are shallow, rock free and there is a lot of shade to hide in from the hot tropical sun.

Our favourite spot at the beach
Our favourite spot at the beach
Happy family
Happy family
The beach at Island resort
The beach at Island resort
At Tuna Bay resort
At Tuna Bay resort

ABOUT PULAU PERHENTIANS

The lovely islands are located on the Eastern coast of Malaysia, not far from the Thai border. The islands are Perhentian Kecil (small island) and Perhentian Besar (big island). You will absolutely love it there because you will find white beaches that we didn’t believe it when we laid our eyes on them for the first time years ago. That’s why we’ve decided to return here with our kid.

Map of Perhentian islands
Map of Perhentian islands

If you get tired of sunbathing or snorkelling you have the opportunity to discover the surrounding jungle and watch awesome creatures like the monitor lizards.

The Perhentian Kecil is known as the backpacker island, and you get the opportunity to get to know other travellers!  The Perhentians struck us as what we envisioned the likes of Koh Tao or Phi Phi to be a decade ago. Barely developed, beautiful clean waters, amazing coral gardens and a laid back, easy going vibe. One more reason we came back again.

Little island, 10 min away by boat
Little island, 10 min away by boat

The 2 islands (conveniently called “Kecil” and “Besar”….big and little) are literally called “stopping place” in Malaysian – and in times gone by it was a stopover for fisherman, but these days it’s more a mecca for divers and backpackers seeking clear blue waters and teaming coral life than traders of the east.

Quick break and them back across the bay
Quick break and them back across the bay

Food wise there’s heaps of places to choose from (although admittedly all serving very much the same thing) and a meal and drink will set you back around £2 – definitely munch down on one of the sea food BBQ’s whilst you’re there!

Once you get to Kuala Besut Jetty you simply need to jump on a speed boat to the islands – it’s around £14 for the return trip and takes just under an hour.

The other option is to fly into Kota Bharu from KL or elsewhere via Air Asia and then grab a quick taxi to the jetty (about 30mins). This significantly cuts down your travel time and won’t burn a huge hole in your wallet either.

There are also plenty of snorkelling and fishing trips to check out too if you wish to leave the shore for something a bit more energetic – and the snorkelling here is pretty damn epic. The coral and white sands are the perfect place to swim amongst schools of marine life, including black tip reef sharks and heaps of turtles.

Here fishy fishy
Here fishy fishy

 Getting there

To get to the Perhentians you have to fly to the nearest airport in Kuala Terengganu – Sultan Mahmud Airport. From Kuala Terengganu make your way to Kuala Besut which serves as a gateway to the Perhentian islands.

By bus from Kuala Terengganu bus terminal, the ride takes 2-3 hours (RM 11 per person, one-way). You can shorten the travel time by taking a taxi from Kuala Terengganu airport (1, 5 hours).

REDANG ISLAND

As if missing our flight was not good enough to start of our trip we were again forced to change plans. Our Kuching-KL flight was delayed for the entire day so instead of leaving Borneo in the morning we had to stay in the airport until 7pm. Svit had some fun with this but the rest of us not so much.

We took off just in time to avoid the full blown storm over the airport. Sadly it stayed with us for almost entire duration of this 2h flight. And it wasn’t the best experience if you know what I mean. Svit on the other hand slept the entire way.

We spend a great night in KL in the best B&B we could imagine (more on that on our KL chapter) and in the morning we were ready to fly again. This time we were on Berjaya aircraft to tropical paradise of Redang.

Pulau Redang in north-east peninsula Malaysia has some of the whitest beaches, clearest water and best snorkelling/diving in Malaysia. You can totally take off your sandals and walk barefoot on this beach! The sand is so white and soft, and looks more like flour/powder textures.

There is a small airstrip on the island which allows for small airplanes to land on the Redang. The airport is located on the south side of the island near the Kampong jetty.

Redang Airpt
Redang Airpt

Most of the resorts at the Redang have three times snorkelling in 3 days 2 nights tour package for tourists but the snorkel equipment fare is excluded; normally the fare would be RM 30 which includes life jacket, normal mask and snorkel.

Other than snorkelling and eating, there really wasn’t much to do on the island other than chilling at the swimming pool or by the beach. We didn’t go for the third snorkeling trip on the second day so we had plenty of time to alternate between the pool and the beach.

This place was really a dream come through for our boy. He was running around the beach all day, swimming in a warm azure waters of this paradise while watching fishes swim by

Warm and calm
Warm and calm
Sunrise over the bay
Sunrise over the bay
Tina and Svit
Tina and Svit

MARINE PARK

Redang Marine park
Redang Marine park

One of the most popular snorkelling spot is Marine Park. It is a place at Pinang Island which is south of Redang Island. Marine Park’s sea water is in turquoise colour, and the water is crystal clear, fishes and coral can be seen even at a distance from the jetty. It looks cool.

Sublime waters
Sublime waters

.I have snorkelled before but the marine life here was simply out of the movie Avatar! My deepest regret is that I don’t have a casing to take my camera underwater and my words would never be adequate to describe my experience. What did I see? I am not an expert on marine life. As I can’t click pictures I can’t even ask friends to identify it for me once I post the pictures online. But what I saw was a riot of colours, red, green, yellow, purple, blue, florescent, grey, black and a cocktail of all this. Sometimes it was the corals and sometimes the fish but what an amazing world is out there under the sea! It has to be seen to be believed. My only regret is that Svit and Tina decided to stay at our resort so Edita and I went on this snorkeling trip alone.

Yes, this are the fish around Edita
Yes, this are the fish around Edita
Lifeguard at the park
Lifeguard at the park
Crystal clear waters at Marine park
Crystal clear waters at Marine park
Castaway
Castaway
Abundance of fish
Abundance of fish

ABOUT PULAU REDANG

Pulau Redang is a rather up-market destination so usually travellers book 3day/2night or similar packages directly with the resorts which includes the boat transfer to and from the island. Redang has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the perfect place to escape bustling city life and spend a day or twenty basking in the sun. But for those in the know, the real draw of Pulau Redang is that it offers some of the best diving and snorkelling experiences. Ask about the night snorkelling trips, where you’ll be able to see for yourself what the locals refer to as ‘blue sand’, which are, in fact, glowing blue plankton that appears everywhere in the water at night.

By Air

From Kuala Lumpur:

Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia offer daily flights from KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) to Kuala Terengganu Airport. Journey by air takes approximately 45 minutes. Berjaya Air operates flight from Subang Airport (Kuala Lumpur) to Redang Island (flight journey 1 hour).

By boat

There are 2 jetties as a starting point for the boat ride to Redang Island:

From Merang:

ca. 30km north of Kuala Terengganu

40min boat ride to Pasir Panjang

RM40 (13 USD) one-way RM80 (26 USD) return

From Kuala Terrenganu:

departure from Shahbandar Jetty

operating from March to October

travel time approx. 1h 15min

price RM50 (16USD) one-way (RM100 (32 USD) return, children half price)